If you’re active long enough, feeling a painful tweak, twist or pull in your knee is inevitable. But knowing when to go to the doctor, and how soon to get back to your regular routine can be difficult. To help you bounce back, we spoke with someone who’s seen more than his share of knee injuries, Jeff Ferguson, VP of Medical Services and Head Athletic Trainer for the San Francisco 49ers.
There’s a big difference between a minor ache and needing a trip to your doctor. “There are certain obvious signs and symptoms that indicate you may want to consider checking in with your doctor,” Ferguson says. “Swelling, lack of full range of motion, and warmth in the knee, which could indicate inflammation or even infection.”
“Once a diagnosis is made with knee pain, it’s important to really focus on foam rolling and stretching the low back, hips, hamstrings, quads and calves,” Ferguson says. “Focusing on other areas really helps keep the kinetic chain going and can take a lot of stress off the knees.” Keeping the areas around your knees loose and pliable is crucial to a speedy, full recovery.
Recovering from a knee injury isn’t an excuse to be a couch potato. “There are a lot of opportunities to stay active with knee pain,” Ferguson says. He suggests swimming, using a stationary bike (in some cases, depending on the severity of the injury), and training on a more forgiving surface like grass.
“It is important that once the tender knees feel better, not to go right back into your regular routine,” Ferguson says. “There really needs to be a progression and limit the volume as you get back into action.” Closely monitor your body’s reaction, and increase your workload accordingly.
Diet … and Exercise
Ferguson says that many of the foods we eat can do as much to help fight knee pain as more expensive (and potentially dangerous) supplements. “Certain foods can be beneficial for inflammation, such as cherries, beet juice and curcumin found in turmeric. Fruits and vegetables also provide a natural source of antioxidants.”
Natural Knee Brace
The muscles around the knee act as a brace when they’re strong, helping to keep it in place and making it more resilient. Here are a few exercises to keep your knees’ support system healthy and strong. Do three sets of 15 repetitions (per leg, with lunges and mountain climbers).